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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., still awaiting bankruptcy court approval for its reorganization plan, reported on Wednesday a $24.6 million operating loss for the quarter ended Sept. 20. The loss, however, was a substantial improvement from the $552.5 million loss the chain suffered in the first quarter of fiscal 2005.
Net sales and identical store sales were up 2.4 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, due primarily to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, Winn-Dixie said. Sales were $1.6 billion, primarily related to grocery and supermarket items, the chain said.
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Winn-Dixie said that areas significantly affected by Hurricane Katrina reported substantially greater increases in identical store sales because of fewer open competitor stores and restaurants in the period, the influx of relief and construction workers to the areas; and, along the Gulf Coast, population shifts to Baton Rouge and other less-affected areas.
Identical sales also increased as a result of increased average sales per customer visit. "We believe the increase in average sales per visit is due to improved store execution and customer service, the introduction of merchandising initiatives, including pricing and promotional programs, and new brand marketing initiatives," Winn-Dixie said in its filing.
Winn-Dixie admitted that competition remains a key drag on its identical store sales. It said it expects identical sales for the remainder of fiscal 2007 to be positive, though lower than the 5.1 percent increase for the latest period.
Gross profit on sales increased $14.6 million for the first quarter. As a percentage of sales, gross margin increased 30 basis points, resulting primarily from improved shrink results partially offset by promotional programs.
Net sales from discontinued operations were $24.2 million. The net gain from discontinued operations was $16.3 million.